Discounts plan to boost idle Betong airport

Discounts plan to boost idle Betong airport

Locals take photos at newly opened but still non-operating Betong Airport last Friday. (Photo: Dusida Worrachaddejchai)
Locals take photos at newly opened but still non-operating Betong Airport last Friday. (Photo: Dusida Worrachaddejchai)

Tourism businesses in Yala's Betong district are proposing discounts on hotel accommodation and food for travellers using their brand new airport, after the Nok Air service quickly died from lack of interest last week.

The idea was floated at Monday's meeting of local officials, tourism and airline  representatives. The meeting was chaired by Betong mayor Sakul Lenglakkul.

Betong's new airport was opened to great fanfare by the prime minister last Monday, with Nok Air launching three return services a week from Don Mueang airport in Bangkok.

Nok Air quckly suspended the service because there were too few bookings.

Tourism operators now plan to offer Nok Air a guaranteed booking of 75% of seats, but want the airline to slash ticket prices and resume flights by April 1.

They said they were targeting Malaysians arriving by land who wanted direct flights to Bangkok.

Narin Ruengwongsa, vice president of the Betong Tourism Association, said hotel operators planned to offer up to 40% discount on rooms, and restaurants and cafes up to 20% on food and beverage, for people travelling on Nok Air, which is the only airline servicing the new airport.

Travellers would only have to show their boarding pass to participating businesses to get the discounts, he said.

Mr Narin said it was hoped the plan would boost bookings on Nok Air, which suspended its service to Betong airport just two days after the inaugural flight last week.

Nok Air said there had been too little marketing time, and consequently the number of passengers was smaller than expected, while the operating cost was high.

Nok Air initially had three scheduled Don Mueang-Betong-Don Mueang flights a week - on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

As of now, there are no plans to resume flights, the airline said.

Department of Airports director-general Parinya Sangsuwan said the DOA  is preparing to call tenders for commercial development at Betong airport. There were currently no shops there, but there should be by May, he said. Bids would be called for an area of 100 square metres in the passenger terminal soon.

Mr Parinya said the DOA expects more tourists in May, which usually marks the high season in the district.

A department official said 70% of the commercial space at the terminal will be for general shopping and the other 30% for local products, in line with government policy to promote community enterprise.

Betong airport covers 920 rai and is 13km east of downtown Betong. The terminal can handle up to 300 passengers an hour, or 800,000 a year.

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